"A narrative genre, a scientific discipline, clearly doesn't consist of a coherent story, but of stories connected with each other in different ways, contradicting each other, competing or complementing one another."
C.Hammer, I. Stieß to Donna Haraway
One side of the story
It is índeed amazing how taken aback people react to the art of Daniela Span, when she succinctly says she is a Kitsch-artist. Period. Finis. Precisely why this is so is an open question. But no all to great gift of phantasy is necessary to imagine that the production of Kitsch can simply not be made to harmonise with the common ideal of an elitist artistic process completely contrary to Kitsch. The expression "production" is already applied incorrectly, because it tends to suggest a mere dimension of mass (-production), emphasizing quantity over quality and thereby runs counter to the elitist notion of the creation of original works of art through an individual stroke of genius.
Two further aspects should be particularly emphasized in considering Daniela Spans artistic work: first of all, the explicit reference to her status as an artist in whose life the complete uncoupling of artistic work and life in general has become unthinkable because of certain given constraints. This means that the often used utopian slogan of the inseparability of art and life is necessarily enacted in everyday reality. The second item concerns how art is created. Daniela Span has clearly spoken out several times against producing art simply for art's sake and then letting it disappear in some depot. Her existing work can therefore be understood - at least to a certain degree - as a form of compilation of artistic responses to "demands" which her completed artistic "supply" has followed.
Yet with such a statement I have run again into the 'traditional conception of art' trap which evaluates art only according to the completed material objects. I'll therefore make a further attempt at a possible approach to the art of Daniela Span: As soon as an artist decides to no longer view her/his work as strictly distinct from her/his respective actions in different social contexts, attempts to conceptually parcell out the work in not-art and art become untenable. Period. Finis.
An artistic mode of thought would consequently emerge, which corresponds to operating with social as well as artistic "symbols, which then express a way of looking at the world."1 Torn out of context this sounds rather generalizing and therefore is to be seen primarily as a merely rhetorical means of marking off conceptually demarkated vantage points. Therefore back again to both the sociological as well as artistic "world view"-symbolism: here symbols of everyday life like hammer or cooking spoon, there symbols of art like painting brush or palette. Put a little less audaciously: on the one hand there is a certain view of life, and on the other the material "expulsion" of art (For more, see the "expulsion-theories" of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976)). On comparing the two poles, however, the impression prevails that they could hardly stand up to a closer relationship. It seems much more likely that rigorous thinking on the one side and the arrangement of kitsch ensembles including artificial roses on the other side embody a nearly unbridgeable contrast.
However, at least a dialectic model of discourse can be drawn up out of this: As a thesis one can postulate that critical mode of thought and the absolute will to permanently define oneself anew in one's social as well as in one's own context. The according antithesis would be the artistic realisation of products, which generally represent entertainment, beauty and other wellness-factors. Or, expressed a little cynically: "When the hard-working people come home from work, they don't want to hear anything more about problems, they already have enough of those, rather they want happyness, relaxation, in other words, a really good time,"2 as Musikanten-Stadl (a popular music TV show) -producer Karl Moik never gets tired of stressing.
The synthesis would form a rather gaping "in between", a kind of conceputal vacuum, which every observer can fill in his/her own way. With respect to the specific "art-production-concept" of Daniela Span this "in between" could also be compared to the "production of knowledge as an inescapable political process, in which that which can be known of the world is at the same time restricted and made possible by the power structures in which the acting persons are incorporated ."3 It can never be stressed enough that the resulting reflections provide a construction of viewpoints4 permanently mounting themselves up and differentiating themselves, a forming of a "network" of viewpoints 4 that has to be taken in the literal sense, from which the specific conceptual formation of an artistic body of work like that of Daniela Span's develops.
An "in between"
"Our society values intellectual achivements more than the emotional comprehending of relationships. Therefore emotional reactions are seen as unpredictable and consequently are deemed untrustworthy. Predictability is a highly esteemed quality because controllability provides the illusion of security."5 Given such a social psychogram, the creation of "ersatz emotions", says Daniela Span, is a logical consequence. These include, for example, the generally increasing sentimentality in the judgement of our reality as well as the excessive receptivity for kitsch of every kind.
"For a feminist artist this means among other things, to thematise the gender specific socialisation functioning through the massive imposition of femininity- and masculinity- clichés in her work. One possibility is the breaking up of internalised kitschy cliché-images, by their pronounced presentation - for example the common Barbie-doll-beauty-ideal, or the longing for a fairy-tale-prince, or the image of the pure joy of motherhood..."6
The artistic incorporation of the theme of rose-symbolism provides in its medial-translation of the above mentioned problem an important means of formal expression: "the rosebud represents a symbol for the young girl: with all the promises of an awakening, still undirected female consciousness filled with vague desires - but also hints at the possibilities of female potency - " the lady is a rose".7
"The fully blossomed rose, however, stands on one hand as a symbol for the desire for eternal life. ... On the other hand, in the presentience of the wilting that is immanent to 'standing in splendour and full blossom', the rose also stands as a symbol for impermanence and death."8
"So the never wilting plastic rose forms a perfect mirror for the youthfullness-mania (= perverted desire for eternal life = fear of dying) forced upon us in a patriarchal, material-capitalist greed-addiction-consumer-society, which indulges in the beauty-youthfullness-success-cult with all available (scientific) means to hinder/prevent authentic = hardly controllable ways of living and dying (including the very important spiritual aspect)."9
"Women are (I nearly want to say: naturally!?) affected by these social forces to a great extent, because they are the projection surface for all male fears and therefore are identified with all beauty-youthfullness-sex-clichés (for example Barbie-dolls-beauty-ideals): Men want tho stall their fear of loss of potency and death by means of control over the female body - so the existential conflicts arising through the polarity of sexuality and death are dealt with on a seemingly less threatening superficial-materialist level."10
Another side of the story
The art-historian Beat Wyss tries in his book "Die Welt als T-shirt" ("The world as a T-shirt") to outline a history of media. In it, amongst other things, he draws the conclusion that "the history of media is a history of pictures, which are made for the purpose of promoting a desired reality."11 Nevertheless, in the course of its historic development the medium has made itself the central element of the production of realities. The resultant inversion of the relationship between art and medium 12 described by Beat Wyss pushes questions like the authorship or originality and authenticity of visual realities into the background but at the same time also lets the normally very strongly emphasized differences between high- and mass-culture slowly disappear and brings artistic positions attaching no more central significance to the the whole aura of the cult of the original that can finally only be maintained artificially, almost inevitably into the center of attention.
The introductory motto: "Art is pretence/appearence - in that respect oil-painting and the picture screen are equal"13 could be used concerning the works of Daniela Span. Yet on the other side stands the development of society, for which the same is increasingly valid. From this point of view art and life really start to grow closer together, at some point from this perspective they can scarcely be seperated. If art and society really are becoming more alike in their constitutional makeup because the production of fantasy worlds is drastically increasing in the construction of social reality, then the question of how we personally deal with this situation automatically comes to mind. How do we cope with this presently stressfull transition phase from the analogue world we live in to a digital world of ideas? Because digitally modelled beauty-ideals of various kinds will keep us disappointed with reality until genetic engineering can provide 'realistic' copies. Apart from the question of whether such a development toward a world of potentially monotonous eternal beauty is desirable at all, the discussion of the condition of our human self-image should be pushed to the fore: the consciousness of a self that feels constantly disappointed and frustrated at the unattainablility of ideals of form imposed from outside. But this also means that at some point in time the stage will be passed in which that principally ultraconservative proclaiming of beauty-ideals as the absolutely true and good, as the implicit possibility of returning to paradisical conditions can, as a whole, be reflected more thoroughly and brought up for discussion.
Nontheless, we seem to be adapting ourselves more than ever to the example given by Beat Wyss of the story of a certain Tommaso Campanella,14 who, sitting in the dungeon from 1599 to 1626, developed a theory of sexual copulation for the breeding of ideal humans. During sexual intercourse, special attention should accordingly be paid to setting up the divine couple of Venus and Apollo. The man takes delight in the sight of the statue of the godess, thereby getting his rev's up, and the woman concentrates on the ideal measurements of the god, so that the offspring may attain his image as much as possible. Here too the imagination, illusion, create a desired image of future reality, while actual reality is denied rsp. repressed as far as possible.15
The human being as an artificial construction, the world as a world of appearence, as pretence - Daniela Span probably will want this to be seen more as the result of the male dominated imperialism of the formal ideal -,16 that is the constant confrontation with the 'other' that can in principle be everything, except precisely one's own self and one's respective environment, could also be a lead into the discussion of that 'in-between' described above. Then the gap, presumed at first glance between "life" and "work", would suddenly be not so big anymore. Yet, as so often, there will probably be no discussion along these lines anyway. Because it is only "kitsch-art". Period. Finis. And therefore the art works of Daniela Span will more likely enter into our living rooms to visually delight us, when we have done our work "diligently and honestly"17 and afterwards come home tired.
Übersetzung: Ingrid Tscholl, John Hausler